After a stormy night, we woke up to a bright, beautiful day, perfect for exploring Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. As we were staying at the South Rim campground located within the National Park, it was a short three minute drive to the first chance to take in the Canyon. The canyon is amazingly deep and you can see why it was named “Black.” The walls, sheer and narrow, effectively limits light penetration and gives the bottom a shadowed foreboding appearance. From our perch on the canyon’s edge, we could hear the roar of the Gunnison River over 2,000 feet below.
We wanted to learn more about this not-well-known National Park which wasn’t raised to National Park status until 1999. To accomplish this, we made a stop at the South Rim Visitor Center where we saw interesting exhibits explaining the geology of the park and watched a very interesting film about the history of the Black Canyon. We learned that there was no evidence of any ancient inhabitants living in the gorge. The first records of humans down in the canyon wasn’t until 1873-74 with the Hayden party and later, Denver & Rio Grande Railway survey party. This survey party, along with their supplies and mules, were lowered down by ropes to the canyon floor with Nitro Glycerin strapped to their backs! It is said that the incredibly loud and constant roar of the river in the gorge can drive a man mad.
With map in hand, we began our drive along the South Rim where there are many overlooks to view the canyon. We skipped many but did stop at the Chasm viewpoint. We were just in time for the Ranger Talk (the kids needed to attend at least one for earning their Junior Ranger badges). The topic was how the canyon rim was like a “supermarket” for ancient people. For the next half hour, we learned more about a handful of different plants and trees and their medicinal and/or practical purposes.
South Rim road ends at Warner Point where the gorge is 2,2772 feet deep. After a picnic lunch, we were ready to hike the 1.5 mile Warner Point Nature Trail. Pinon Pines and Juniper trees are plentiful here and provided us welcomed shade from the sun. The kids, excited to show off what they had learned, shared the many ways the ancient people used these types of trees (rope, sandals, clothes, food, tools, etc.). We enjoyed fabulous panoramic views of the pastoral fields below and of the West Elk mountains. When we reached the Warner Point overlook, we were pleased to see some large boulders, a perfect place to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of the canyon.
As evening approached in camp, we were visited by a Ranger letting us know there would be a special telescope viewing of the night sky. Once it was dark, the kids and I, armed with flashlights, made our way to where the telescope was set up. So glad we did! We were the only people there with the Ranger and he was great with the kids. We saw the most amazing sight – Saturn and it’s rings! We were also able to see Titian, Cassiopeia, Mars and star clusters. A dry lightning storm out in the distance also was interesting to see. It was a magical evening for all of us.
Monday had arrived so after breakfast, Troy and his Dad took a trip down to Montrose Ford to see what was wrong with the truck. While they were gone, it was time to make some art! We made glitter faces, rock people and some nature sketches. The campground was pretty quiet and when we looked up, we noticed a herd of deer with their fawns foraging. One doe even had twins! We were able to capture a couple of good photos before they moved on through the brush.
Finally, Troy and Dad returned from Montrose Ford and the news was not good. We needed a new transmission and we were stuck in Montrose until Thursday at the earliest. This put a huge kink in our plans. After discussing options, it was with a heavy heart that we decided to cut out our 5-day trip into Utah to visit family. It was very disappointing for the kids who really wanted to see their Grandma. Of course, Grandma and the rest of the family were terribly disappointed as well.
Tip: It is very important to have a credit card with an available balance for these types of emergencies. This unexpected repair was over $3,000.
Tip: In situations such as this, it is worth the time to cancel reservations for campgrounds and activities. Although we didn’t get a refund from our campground, we did receive 75% back from a cave tour we booked in Utah.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in town, picking up essentials for Dad and checking out the Montrose/Black Canyon National Park KOA. We made a reservation for the following night as we were in need of potable water, showers, the internet and of course, a pool. We enjoyed our last evening at the National Park campground by attending another ranger program; this time a presentation called “Predators and Prey.” Drake, Mia and Dad were picked to help the Ranger with the presentation which was great fun for them all.
Tip: Black Canyon of the Gunnison campground offers ranger programs every night of the week except Tuesday.